DENVER –Quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are Super Bowl bound.
The team earned a 26-16 victory against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at Sports Authority Field on Sunday, earning the franchise's seventh Super Bowl berth.
Manning led the offense completing 32-of-43 passes for 400 yards with a pair of touchdowns in the win.
"Well, it's an exciting feeling," Manning said after the game. "You do take a moment to realize that we've done something special here and you certainly want to win one more."
Manning's 400 passing yards were the third-most for his career in the postseason. His 118.4 rating was the fifth-best for his playoff career.
And for the third time, he's going to play in the Super Bowl.
"I know how hard it is to get there, it's extremely difficult," Manning said. "You do have to take a moment and enjoy the locker room with your teammates and enjoy dinner tonight with your family and friends."
Manning connected with eight different receivers in the win.
Seven of his completions went for 20-plus yards, coming on a passes both deep and short.
"With us, we've spread the ball around so well all season, it's hard to know who really to key on," Manning said. "On any given play one of five guys could get the ball. I think that puts pressure on a defense."
Manning had plenty of time in the pocket, for the second straight playoff game, Manning was not sacked. In fact, he wasn't even hit once by the Patriots.
"I'm extremely proud of (center) Manny (Ramirez)," Manning said. "He's one of our strongest guys on the team, and I'm just proud of the way he's improved all season. (Tackle) Chris Clark replacing (injured tackle) Ryan Clady—arguably the best left tackle in the game—that is not an easy job to replace, and just proud of the way he's improved and seized that opportunity. Really it's been a close-knit unit, and those guys played great today and I'm real proud of them."
Despite holding a 23-3 lead in the fourth quarter, Manning never counted fellow future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady and the Patriots out.
"Look, certainly we kept wanting to score points," Manning said. "We know how much pride that organization has and how explosive Tom Brady on offense can be at any time. So every time we got the ball we were trying to be aggressive, we were trying to score touchdowns."
After wide receiver Eric Decker recovered the Patriots' onside kick with 3:07 to play, Manning and the offense held on to the ball, picking up two first downs to end the game in the victory formation.
"It was nice two weeks in a row to finish the game with the ball," Manning said. "I thought (Offensive
Coordinator) Adam (Gase) was aggressive, we were throwing it on that last drive and I thought that made a big difference."
One of those aggressive play calls was a 23-yard completion to tight end Jacob Tamme on second-and-7 that moved the chains while also keeping the clock running.
"To keep Tom Brady on the sidelines is a good thing," Manning laughed. "That is something that you try to do when you're playing against the Patriots. We did a good job on third downs converting. I thought our first- and second-down stuff was good."
After a week to prepare for the AFC Championship game, Manning and the Broncos will have two weeks before taking the field again on Sunday, Feb. 2 for Super Bowl XLVIII.
"There is still one more game to play," Manning said. "I think we will enjoy this and you definitely have to take time to savor the moment."
"I think it's important to do that and I will do that. Then starting tomorrow we'll start preparing for whoever it is we're playing."